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Froome taken to hospital after Criterium crash

Froome could be ruled out of the upcoming Tour de France. Credit: PA

Chris Froome was taken to hospital on Wednesday following a crash before stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine.

Team Ineos confirmed in a statement that the four-time Tour de France winner had come off his bike during a reconnaissance of the day's ride and had withdrawn from the race.

Froome was eighth in the overall classification after three stages of the eight-day race, just 24 seconds behind leader Dylan Teuns.

The 34-year-old was using the race in Roanne, France, as part of his build-up to the Tour, which starts on July 6.

In a short statement on their Twitter account, Team Ineos said: "Team Ineos can confirm that Chris Froome crashed during a recon of stage four of the Criterium du Dauphine today.

"He is currently on his way to a local hospital and won't start today's fourth stage. We will provide a further update in due course."

The Tour is only three and a half weeks away and Froome's preparations this season have been built around peaking for the race as he aims to join an elite group of just four riders to have won five Tour titles.

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Froome suffers crash as Matthews wins stage two of Volta a Catalunya

Credit: PA

Chris Froome suffered a bruising day on the Volta a Catalunya as he was caught in a crash on stage two.

The four-time Tour de France winner hit the deck inside the last 40km of the 166.7km stage from Mataro to Sant Feliu De Guixols.

Though the Team Sky rider was quickly back on his bike, Froome rode on sporting some nasty road rash and bleeding from his right elbow, and did not attempt to chase back to the main group.

Instead, he finished in a group some 14 minutes behind Australian stage winner Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb.

Froome is competing in his first WorldTour race of the season, but was here to support team-mate and Paris-Nice winner Egan Bernal in the general classification while getting some miles in his legs after a slow start to the year.

Lotto-Soudal's Thomas De Gendt retained the race leader's white and green jersey following his breakaway victory on stage one, with his lead standing at two minutes 47 seconds over world champion Alejandro Valverde, with Bernal in seventh place a further 10 seconds down.

British quarter Simon and Adam Yates, Hugh Carthy and James Knox, as well as Irishman Dan Martin, are all two minutes and 58 seconds off the lead.

De Gendt wins opening stage of Volta a Catalunya

Credit: PA

Chris Froome finished safely in the pack as Thomas De Gendt won the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya in a breakaway.

Lotto-Soudal's De Gendt launched a solo attack 60km from the finish of the 163km stage which started and finished in Calella, and took victory by two minutes and 38 seconds.

Froome is riding in his first WorldTour race of the season, and only his second event of the year following on from the Tour of Colombia in February.

However, leadership of Team Sky is in the hands of Paris-Nice winner Egan Bernal, who finished eighth.

Having picked up some bonus seconds late on the stage, the 22-year-old Colombian sits fifth in the general classification, two minutes 57 seconds behind De Gendt.

Froome and Thomas aiming for Tour de France success in 2019

Credit: PA

Team Sky are set to go into what could be their final Tour de France with two leaders as four-time winner Chris Froome and defending champion Geraint Thomas both confirmed they will target the race in 2019.

Froome will not defend his Giro d'Italia title as he seeks a record-equalling fifth Tour crown, but will face a challenge from within as Thomas also plans to be in France having won the race for the first time in July.

Both riders have said they want to deliver success on the road in order to help Team Sky secure new sponsorship, with the decision of broadcaster Sky to end its investment in the sport after 2019 leaving the team with an uncertain future.

Froome admitted it was a difficult decision not to defend his Giro crown after becoming the first British winner of the Italian race last May, but he has his eyes on the record of five Tour titles jointly held by Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain.

"I'm getting to the point in my career now where I'm starting to think about what kind of legacy I want to leave behind and if I am able to win the Tour de France for a fifth time and join that very elite group of bike riders - only four other people have ever done that - it would just be incredible," the 33-year-old said.

That will leave Sky with two leaders in France in July, with Thomas keen to defend his title before turning his attention to the time trial at the world championships in Yorkshire in September. He too will miss the Giro.

"The main goal for me will be to go back to the Tour de France for the best result I can," the Welshman said.

"Maybe if I hadn't have won the Tour in 2018 I might have looked at a Giro/Vuelta programme but, having won the Tour, I'll have the number one on my back and it would be sad not to go back and not to go back at 100% as well.

"The year will be geared around that, but I'm also looking forward to a slightly different programme as well, and obviously after the Tour, the Worlds in Yorkshire will be massive."

With Thomas and Froome focused on the Tour, Sky will hand team leadership for the Giro in May to 21-year-old rising star Egan Bernal, who finished 15th at the Tour in July in his first season at WorldTour level.

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